Bob James has come across a deadly way of putting together big bags of quality chub on the float on the Wye, one of his favourite rivers.

I HIT upon the success you can have float-fishing with boilies kind of by accident. One of the customers I was guiding on the River Wye had brought a bag along with him and wanted to float-fish. I wouldn’t have advised it, but I let him get on with it in a swim I knew held plenty of chub. And he proceeded to positively bag up…
Not a man to just dismiss it as a one-off, the catch of 20 fish to nearly 5lb got me thinking about just why the technique had been so successful.
One obvious reason has to be that boilies are far more selective than the traditional maggot and caster approach.
Yes, you can catch plenty of chub on these baits – and chub really do love maggots. But you can also find yourself having problems with small chub, dace and bleak, all of which are common on the Wye. I’ve not seen many of these silver fish that can get their laughing gear around a 10mm boilie!
Subsequent sessions have, however, shown me that there’s much, much more to it than that. In fact, done correctly, it’s a fantastic method for grabbing a big bag of chub on the float.
There’s no doubt about it, fish just know that boilies are good for them. From my observations, once you get chub feeding on boilies they get very excited, dashing about all over the place with their fins erect.
As with many techniques in angling, though, you need patience to get the most from the method. I know it’s difficult to stop yourself from casting in if you know you have a load of fishing front of you, but it really will pay off in the long run if you feed the swim for a while before wetting a line.
But I’m not talking all day here. Three-quarters of an hour of regularly catapulting in around ten boilies at a time will have the fish competing and moving into the upper layers to snaffle the bait before their mates. And be in no doubt that fish which compete with each other are far easier to catch.
I’m now also convinced that the distinctive sound boilies make on hitting the water is key to the success of this method. This encourages the fish out from their cover to look for the source of the clear ‘plop’ – which to them spells ‘dinner’.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that a fish that can spook so easily on small, clear streams can also behave so much like a commercial fishery carp on big rivers like the Wye?
In truth, I don’t think chub on venues like this – even in winter – are genuine bottom feeders. Simply they are greedy and thus always prepared to come up in the water to get to the food first.

By casting further down the peg Bob contacted a better quality of chub.

One of the keys to catching a good bag of chub on the Wye in summer is to pick the right peg. The fish won’t be shoaled up in open water and instead will be looking for the shade that, for example, overhanging branches offer and which, ideally, is in at least three feet of water.
The swim I’m fishing here is a classic. There’s a shallow gravel bank on the near side with around four feet of water down the middle and a similar depth under a 30-yard run of overhanging trees. And if no chub exist there I’ll stand on my head and sing the national anthem backwards!
Of course, it’s not all about finding the fish. Do things wrongly and you can easily fall flat on your face and pick off only the odd fish, whereas if you do things properly you could have over 50lb of them.
One of the easiest mistakes to make is to try and fish with too light a float. With such a float you’ll end up trying too hard to cast and so struggle to mend the line when it gets ahead of the float. This will cause unnatural water disturbance which can quickly force the fish to back off. A light float will also wobble down the swim – and if the tip of the float is wobbling you can bet the hook bait is, too.
I always use a stick float when I’m fishing boilies for chub, bulking most of the float’s capacity about 12 to 18 inches from the hook. The high shoulder on the Woody’s Angling Centre top and bottom floats are perfect for float control on a swift-flowing river like the Wye.
A big float also has the added advantage of drawing fish toward it when it lands. The sound of a wodge of 5AAA shot hitting the water is not unlike that of the ‘plop’ of a boilie, and we already know that fish respond to that.
One thing I never do when I’m fishing a stick float on a river is plumb up. That might sound odd to some, but the last thing I want to do after getting fish going for 45 minutes is to drop some lead on their heads and risk spooking them. I only need a rough idea of the depth anyway, as I’m expecting the fish to be up in the water.
I start at about three and a half feet deep in a swim I estimate is about four feet deep. Sure enough, on my first run down the float rockets under as the bait is intercepted while it sinks and before the float has properly settled.
This is far from unexpected, however. In fact, I almost always catch on the first or second run down here if I’ve spent time pre-feeding the swim. I believe that as long as I feed the swim, the chub will only taking the bait that’s falling through the water and ignore it once it reaches the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, they will take boilies on the bottom, but they’re more wary and tend to play with them before taking a bite; on the other hand, they’ll smash into the falling baits.
The baits on the bottom will get eaten, though, both by barbel – which live on this stretch of the Wye in weights of up to around 12lb, and by chub once I’ve stopped feeding and fishing.
One thing you have to be aware of when you hook a chub here is that they possess an incredibly powerful initial lunge.
I never give them much line or they’ll dive under the overhanging branches where there are loads of snags. So I’m tooled up for the job today with 6lb line straight through – and with that tackle I’m able to stop and turn the fish. 
If you read my interview in last month’s issue you’ll know that I’ve always been prepared to learn from match anglers who have to work hard to catch fish, often at the wrong time of day and in difficult conditions. They also have to know how to make the most of a good swim inside a limited time frame.
If you watch a match angler who is putting together a big bag of fish, you’ll notice that he’ll feed even when playing them so as to keep the fish active and interested.

Bob’s Boilie Rig

This is also crucial when you fish this way for chub. As I said earlier, the sound of the boilies going in gets the chub excited and this draws them out from their safety cover. If you stop feeding they’ll retreat back and you’ll have to start over again. Pleasure anglers looking to catch big bags of fish on rivers can certainly take a leaf out of the match angler’s book.
The first chub I land is one of about 3lb, in magnificent condition, and he sprays his fins out for the cameras in defiance before I slip him back.
I don’t have a problem returning fish straight back to the swim. I know some anglers say that it can spook the others in the shoal, but once these chub have it in their heads that they want boilies on the drop they will not let anything distract them.
I hook a string of chub around the same size, applying plenty of side-strain in catching each so I can quickly get them out of the shoal.
I’m now looking for a better stamp of fish to cap things off.
I have two options: I can either keep feeding and get through the smaller fish at the front of the shoal to the bigger chub which always hang back; or I can cast down the peg, past the smaller fish, and hope to get a bigger one.
My first three runs casting lower down the peg draw a blank, but on the fourth the float tip shoots under and my Bob James Float rod takes on a satisfying curve as a better fish powers towards the snags.
I’m confident in my tackle. though, and soon I’m gaining line on my JW Young BJ centrepin. This fish has a big old head and after handing it in, as well as capturing the moment with a quick picture, a battling 4lb 8oz Wye chub is returned to fight another day. It’s a good note on which to end things.
All in all I’ve taken 18 chub today in just two and a half hours fishing and 50 per cent of these have come on the drop before the float has settled.
It might not be a method for the traditionalist but, as you’ve seen, float-fishing for chub with boilies is certainly a deadly exercise.

No messing about hair rigging – Bob side hooks his boilies.
Bob feeds boilies for around 45 minutes before fishing to gain the confidence of the chub.
The sound of a wodge of AAA shot hitting the water is not unlike the sound of a boilie doing so, and the fish will respond to it.
In the swift flows of the Wye a big float like this, with a high shoulder, will help you control its passage.

tcf Top Tip
When he expects big fish Bob always chooses eyed hooks over spade ends. The boilies are simply side-hooked, but the bait is moved around the back of the bend so that it covers the eye.

tcf Top Tip
When handing in fish, tuck the rod under your arm, grab them behind the head with one hand, hold up and slip the hook out with the other. Then hold the fish in the water until it kicks away.

What Boilie?
The key to this method is the noise made by the boilies as they hit the water. The fish quickly get excited, and appear out of the cover and up in the water to compete for the food, which, in turn, makes them easier to catch. Bob uses 10mm John Baker Bio Plum boilies for the hook and mini boilies for feed.
“Some colours and flavours certainly work better than others, but the customer who opened my eyes to this method was using ordinary brown shelf lifes,” said Bob. “The bottom line is that the chub know the boilies are good for them.”

Bob has 6lb line on his centrepin, treated with line floatant.

The Beauty of Centrepins
There is simply nothing to beat float-fishing on rivers with a centrepin. Float control cannot be matched and fish control is far superior than when using a fixed spool reel, because the pressure you place on a fish with your thumb can be adjusted much more quickly than with a clutch, and thus you can gain the upper hand over a fish very rapidly.
Last, but by no means least, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience playing fish on a centrepin compared to doing so through a set of centrepin gears.
On a more technical note, you get absolutely no line twist with centrepins. Whatever you may read, no-one is able to make a fixed spool reel that doesn’t twist line, and with lighter lines that becomes very troublesome. 
I use the BJ JW Young centrepin loaded with 6lb line treated with a line floatant so that I can easily mend the line if it gets downstream of the float.

The Wallace Cast
I wanted to learn to Wallace cast because I saw it in Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing. Mr Crabtree’s float would sail effortlessly under overhanging cover on the far bank of the Hampshire Avon and into the lair of the waiting fish.
I tried and tried, for years in fact, to cast as he did. The sticking point, though, was the spinning of the drum using the thumb on the forward cast. I just couldn’t do it.
Later in life I was lucky enough to meet the creator of Crabtree, Bernard Venables, and I asked him how he did it as it had been shown. Amazingly, though, he admitted that not only could he not do it, he’d never met anyone who could!
I’ve now learned that the Wallace cast is a two-handed affair with the left hand pulling the line during the forward cast to set the reel spinning.  The thumb is then used to slow down the drum, as the float loses its inertia, to prevent an over-run. It’s now second nature to me.
There’s no need to whip on extra rings nearer the reel as you do with the Nottingham cast (when you take loops of line between the rings). I find the Nottingham cast – which readers may have seen John Wilson use – very fiddly, and it has a more limited casting range.
One of the other great benefits of the Wallace cast is that you put the rod to the side and sweep it forwards. This means you can project the float low and flat to the water, so allowing you to place it under overhanging cover – just like Mr Crabtree.
Another major advantage is that, because you slow down the cast with your thumb as it’s being completed, the rig lands bait first, shot second, and float third, all in line – you thus get perfect presentation and no tangles. It’s also perfect if you get takes on the drop because the rig is already in a straight line.
From the moment the float is in position everything is ready to fish – so a fast take, which you will often get when you bait a swim, can be met with an instant strike.

The Wallace Cast

Step 1
With the top of the float hanging about four feet from the rod tip, grab the line just above the reel with your left hand and draw back about an arm’s length of it.
Step 2
The reel should be close to horizontal to stop the line wrapping around either it or the handles.
Step 3
With the rod high, start to swing the rig to the side and behind you.
Step 4
As you swing back, let the weight of the rig draw your left hand (which is still holding the line) back to the reel.
Step 5
In the same motion as you swing the rig forward to cast, sharply pull the line off the back of the reel to get the drum spinning. This is difficult and takes a lot of practice.
Step 6
Let the passage of the rig take your left hand back to the front of reel to stop it wrapping around the drum or handles.
Step 7
At the moment the rig is about the land on the water you need to slow down the drum with your thumb to prevent a line over-run. This also helps the rig to land bait first.

You can find out more about Bob James’ guiding services at or email .
Bob fished the River Wye near Hereford. In tcf’s view, the best nearby tackle shop is Woody’s Angling Centre, tel: 01462 344644.